It looks like American anxiety about a rising Russia might be warranted; according to the 2016 Power Index conducted by Global Firepower (GFP), the Russians command the world’s second most powerful military, after the United States — and that is without factoring in nuclear capabilities, which includes over 8,500 warheads, of which 1,800 were operational. (The U.S. has 7,500 nukes, with close to 2,000 ready to deploy.)
Moreover, the gap between the two countries is surprisingly narrow: the Power Index judges 126 countries against a perfect score of 0.0000, drawing data from a variety of public sources ranging from the C.I.A. to news outlets. The U.S. enjoys the top rating of 0.1663, with Russia just two hundred points lower at 0.1865.
In third place was China — widely regarded as a rising superpower and America’s main rival — which scored 0.2318. India, another contender for future superpower, came in fourth place at 0.2698, following by a former superpower, the United Kingdom (0.2747).
Rounding out the top ten were France (0.3069), South Korea (0.3098), Germany (0.3507), Japan (0.3841), and Turkey (0.4339). Countries that made the top twenty included Israel, Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Egypt, and Poland.
At the bottom of the list were Somalia (5.7131), which is a de facto failed state, preceded by Mozambique, Mali, Zambia, and Libya (also in a state of near-collapse).
Unsurprisingly, most of the top militaries were in large, technologically advanced, and/or economically developed states, while the worst performers were among poor and unstable countries, where maintaining, equipping, and training armed forces is more difficult.
The Power Index measures militaries based on over 50 factors, including military budget, available manpower, the amount of military hardware (tanks, jets, submarines, etc.), logistical and technological capabilities (labor force, merchant marine, etc.), and even geography (which is a factor in defensive conflicts).
Thus, the GFP takes into account the many variables that go into an effective fighting force — it is not just the raw number of troops or armor that matter, but the support systems, funding, natural resources, and a host of other externalities that keep them running effectively (if at all).
That said, the Power Index is hardly airtight; for example, some values are based on estimates, due to a lack of reliable data. And some of the key elements of military prowess — such as political and military leadership — remain unaccounted for, and indeed unquantifiable.
Nevertheless, the results offer some idea of the potential military prowess of certain countries. So even though Germany and Japan lack much in the way of size and recent combat experience, their technological and financial resources offer tremendous potential; conversely, what China and India, thus far, lack in tech, is more than made up for in manpower, natural resources, and hardware.
Russia’s high ranking is interesting for several reasons, not least of them being that it had long ago been written off as a relevant global power following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the country’s subsequent economic and social problems. But a decade of modernization efforts — which includes transitioning into a professional, rather than conscripted, force — seems to be paying off. Moreover, Russia continues to enjoy a vast inheritance of technological knowhow and firepower developed over the course of the Cold War. While by no means a superpower like it once was as part of the Soviet Union, it remains a major global player — for better or worse.
What do you think about these results?